Government to Restart Winter Wolf Kill

Wolf defenders say human activity, not wolves, to blame for decline in caribou population.

By Andrew MacLeod 17 Nov 2017 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The British Columbia government killed 108 wolves last winter and plans to continue the controversial cull this year in an attempt to protect dwindling numbers of caribou.

“Successful recovery of some endangered caribou populations requires intensive removal of wolves, including shooting from helicopters during the winter season,” says a summary report dated Aug. 28, 2017 and posted on the website of the non-profit advocacy group Wolf Awareness Inc.

Last winter government officials killed 93 wolves in the South Peace, 11 in the Revelstoke area and four in the South Selkirks. “Removal activities will restart this winter as soon as field conditions (fresh snow cover) permit efficient operations,” the report said.

Sadie Parr, the executive director of Wolf Awareness, said the government should immediately cancel the planned cull. “There’s nothing to suggest it is working.”

Some caribou populations are very low, but that’s the fault of people, not wolves, Parr said. “If we’re serious about conserving caribou we need to start conserving the entire ecosystem,” she said. “As we’re killing wolves we’re still plundering ahead in terms of impoverishing the habitat for caribou.”

The culling began in January 2015 with a government announcement saying, “Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term.”

At the time, there were as few as 163 caribou in the South Peace herd and just 18 in the South Selkirks.

While some environmentalists condemned the wolf cull — which drew international attention when the singer Miley Cyrus asked her Instagram followers to sign a petition against it — others accepted it as a desperate but necessary action to protect the remaining caribou.

In the South Selkirks, the government’s summary report said, caribou numbers had not yet rebounded. “While there is expected to be a lag time prior to seeing positive response to the treatment, this program is not demonstrating success in terms of increased caribou numbers. A halt in the decline of caribou may be the most positive aspect of this treatment.”

In the Moberly zone of the South Peace, the estimated number of caribou had increased from 166 to 192.

“While aerial wolf removal is controversial, it is necessary to meet the conservation objectives for caribou and the associated economic benefits,” the report said. “The two continuing removal projects are technically sound and have strong stakeholder support. There are some very preliminary indications of a positive effect on caribou in the South Peace.”

Continuing the cull was seen as necessary to ensure continued support from other users of the land base. As the report put it, “Continued successful implementation of wolf control is seen as an essential step by industrial sectors, since significant habitat has already been set aside to help recover caribou.”

Parr said she’s hopeful the new government, which formed in July with three Green party MLAs agreeing to support a minority NDP government, will take another look at the cull. “I was happy to know the government is willing and interested in hearing from those concerned and discussing some alternatives as well,” she said.

A Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development spokesperson did not provide a response to questions by publication time. The minister responsible, Doug Donaldson, is on a forestry trade mission this week in Japan and China.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Environment

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